Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reinventing Yourself

Hello world. Thanks for dropping by.

I've been torn as to whether to start blogging with a bang or a whimper. If you're reading this on post day, you'll know the whimper theory won out. Mainly because if I kept waiting for a bang, I realized I might never get started.

Finding my blog voice has been a challenge. How do I fuse who I am and what I know into an interesting and entertaining series of posts – ones that won't bore even me? For the answer, I looked at what defines me today and thought about how that contrasts with what defined me yesterday. Which made me realize I am a different person with a different life and different priorities today than I was just 5 or 10 – or 30 -- years ago.

How about you? How much has changed in your life? What milestones have diverted you along your life path?

While there were times I would have defined who I am in terms of gymnast, glider pilot, or melee fighter and swashbuckler in the Society for Creative Anachronism, those days are behind me. As are my days as a Registered Veterinary Technician, dog trainer, and enthusiastic weekend movie-goer. These things all shape the current me, however, and without them, I would be a much different person in the here-now.

So what might you find here in upcoming posts? I've grouped my current interests and talents into two broad categories: writing and farm life.


I'm a writer/editor for a mega-huge global IT company. While I write about technology and have an entirely too geeky understanding of a broad range of technical things from applications to networking hardware, I loathe technical writing. Instead, I write persuasive copy: proposals, marketing collateral, white papers, etc. As I've been doing this for over 20 years, I not only do it pretty well, I make a fairly decent living at it. Sadly, it's not very fulfilling.

Before I got into the technology field almost a generation ago, I was an evaluator for a distributor of K-12 educational books and other teaching aids. The owners cared deeply about their catalog offerings and it was my job to ensure we accepted only the best and to filter out anything that smacked of discrimination (family, career, gender, religion, race, etc.). I wrote catalog descriptions for the material we accepted and at lunch got to watch wonderful classic movies submitted to us to be part of our inventory. It was a great job. Sadly, it didn't pay much.

I hold an M.A. in English and taught freshman composition while taking graduate classes. Sadly, I was never able to make a career out of being a perennial student.

I also dabble in creative writing. I've sold a handful of short stories and have written a handful of novels. Along the way, I discovered that my catalog copywriting and advertising/marketing background gave me a knack for crafting effective query letters. As I'm more a content editor than a copyeditor, I have nothing new to add to the wealth of quality "how-to" writing information already available in the blogosphere. What I can provide is the occasional query critique or rewrite and the occasional rant about writing-related topics. If you have a query you'd like me to critique publicly, send it over.

Farm Life

I grew up in middle-class suburbia, but my heart has always been rural. In the early 90s, I moved out to the country, alone, on 14 acres. I didn't have much money and the community was what would be considered poor "trailer trash". I had a couple of Dobermans, not simply because I liked the breed, but because I felt I needed the protection. I dreamed of horses. Reality gave me a 40-minute commute into the city and a job with long hours. There simply wasn't enough time for a career, upkeep of the property, and equines. After 5 horseless years, I moved back to suburbia.

Flash forward to now. While there is much about my current job to complain about, one thing overshadows it all: I work from home. In fact, the company encourages remote workers. It supplies my laptop, wireless connection, international calling card, permanent conferencing number, and persistent virtual room so I can connect with my immediate and extended team members around the world from the comfort of my home office.

Five years ago I moved onto 19 acres about 60 miles north of Dallas. Last year, I annexed an additional 8 acres from a neighbor. The area is modest middle-class. So far, I've only improved about 5 acres to house a few animals: 4 miniature horses, 2 pygmy goats, 5 ducks, 3 guineas, 25 chickens, 3 dogs, 4 cats, 1 iguana and some finches and parakeets. The goal is to one day provide a haven for a few abused or homeless animals in need of a forever home. There's a lot of work that needs to be done before that can happen, and right now job obligations, general upkeep of what's here now, and taking care of my dad (who lives in a separate residence on the property and has been debilitated by a stroke) takes up far too much time to consider taking on any more responsibilities at present.

So What Does All This Have To Do With Blogging?

Yes, well, there is a connection. I plan to post 3 times a week.

Wednesdays, I'll tackle all things writerly, from query letter critiques to observations about the act of committing prose to paper. Be warned: I'm a liberal when it comes to grammar. If you're a grammar snob, you will likely be offended by my attitude toward the written word. If you shudder at any of the following statements, avoid this blog on Wednesdays:

  • Stylistic sentence frags are OK.
  • First and second person in business correspondence is OK.
  • All those gray areas in style that Strunk and White try to pigeonhole into black or white? Not really worth arguing about.
  • Grammar is graceful and fluid and evolves with each new generation. Rules change. That's a good thing.
Fridays, I'll recap the week around the farm. I'll post a few pictures and introduce you to the beasties. You'll hear my laments about the fickleness of the weather, join me on my tractor outings, and guess along with me how many trees will fall into the pond before summer is over. Yes, farm life is exciting, and I will capture it all for you in excruciating detail. Don't miss out.

Mondays I'll reserve for all things miscellaneous. Be prepared for anything. I know I will be.

I'm also considering a Saturday or Sunday post about science-related topics: links to new discoveries/innovations, articles about medicine or paleontology or whatever else strikes my fancy. But I'll see how time-consuming 3 posts a week is to start.

Posting Schedule
  • Miscellaneous Mondays
  • Writerly Wednesdays
  • Farm Fridays          
  • Science Saturdays (tentative)
Follow Me, if you will. It's good for my ego. I'll also link to you if you link to me. Typical drill.

I look forward to spending time with you. Virtually, of course, nothing stalkerish. Or maybe I'll just be talking to myself. That would be OK, too. I do that often enough that it doesn't feel so weird any more.



sylvia said...

Hurray! This seems pretty bang on for a whimper.

You didn't say how you feel about smileys? ;)

Phoenix said...

Hi Sylvia!

My smileys always have noses

And sometimes clown hats

Also, "cool" and "duh" are probably the two most underappreciated words in the English language. IMHO.

Chris Eldin said...

This is awesome!! I love your blog! I'm looking forward to Farm Fridays and Science Saturdays.
I didn't know you had such an affinity for horses. Me too... There is a horse rescue farm a few miles from us. I'm not sure how they get funding, but they're well respected.

Phoenix said...

Hi Chris!

It's heartwarming to know there are so many good rescue groups out there. We hear about the hoarders and the ones who sell to research labs and the mills so much more often than we hear about the ones that do right by their charges.

I don't think I'll go after funding, which is why I'll have to be selective. The last thing I want is to have to wonder where the next mouthful of hay will come from. Feed, shelter, fencing, vet bills, farrier fees -- it's pretty expensive to keep any type of animal, large or small. But I don't want to get into the bureaucracy of charitable organizations. This will be a very personal venture. It's a hard lesson learning you can't save the world when so many are crying out to be saved. But I'll do fostering, too, for displaced animals that just need a temporary home. That way I can help more animals.

That's today's plan, at least. In four years, I'll know better. Like if my plan to retire at 55 can even happen depending on finances, economy, etc. Not that I plan for full retirement then. Sigh. I'm sure I'll be looking for contract work, too. Or, in the best scenario, look to supplemental income from writing books.

Chris Eldin said...

Phoenix, Is it okay to say I see a book in there?
:-) Horse stories for young girls never go out of style.

On a different note, I forgot to ask you if you're getting tax advice. If you're using your land for this purpose, there must be some (huge) tax deduction you can take advantage of. I'm going to google the name of the farm here, if you want to contact them directly. I've been there with my kids (a drop-in so I could see what things were really like), and they really are very kind to their animals.

Chris Eldin said...

Okay, it's called "Days End Horse Farm" and it's in Howard County, Maryland.
Here's the link:

I hope I'm not going overboard with all these comments, but I really respect what you're doing with the farm and hope you can make it the best possible--for you and your charges!

Phoenix said...

Thanks, Chris! I'm going now to check out their link.

I already have an ag exemption on the property here, which means I only pay a few dollars in taxes for 24 of the 27 acres. It doesn't help as much as you'd think, though, since the bulk of the tax burden is on the 3 acres and the house that I have to declare for personal use. But being able to write off feed and supplies would be nice... I'll be checking into that as the time approaches. See what the trade-offs are.

sylvia said...

Add me to the people who will be interested to hear about how that works and what you find out as you progress (along with lots of animal photographs, please!)

Robin S. said...

Woo hoo! I just had a persual around the grounds, ma'am, and am about to link ya (though you'll get better linkage from others, since my blog is hiatus-y.)

I love that tiger and Phoenix pic!
Remember it from EE's anniversary blog you did. Hard to believe that was TWO years ago, huh?!

Anyway, I love the look of your blog, and the content as well. So glad you included the MZ Bradley stuff - that's freaking impressive.

Evil Editor said...

What I can provide is the occasional query critique ...

Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. I assume you mean you'll be useful and not evil.

Phoenix said...

Thanks for the linky love, Rob! Yeah, two years already. Feels like twenty.

Phoenix said...

Hey EE!

What, do you have Google Alerts set to "query critique"? How'd you even find me?!

And yes, I did consider offering useful advice to distinguish any semi-occasional critiquing on my little blog with its 4 followers from your evil yet strangely humorous blog, which is well past the 1.5 million hits mark (though I probably account for .2 or .3 of that myself). Feeling threatened, are you?

In all seriousness, thanks for dropping by. I visit your site every day; I'm just not commenting as often.

Chris Eldin said...

Psssttt.... Phoenix,

I think if you start putting movies together, you can give EE a run for his money. Especially if you include cute furry animals in your movies.

So nice to see EE over here!!!

Whirlochre said...

I'm looking forward to hearing about that ole IGUANA.

Does it do tricks?

Does it make weird noises?

What does it make of bats?

I can't wait...

McKoala said...

Hee, I love it. Great first blog.

You're opening the query critique out for the flood! Looking forward to the farmerly posts.

blogless troll said...

Very cool. I'll be back when I have more time.

fairyhedgehog said...

I didn't realise I wasn't following you! But now I am.

I love your take on the way language changes. Are you also a LOLcat addict, or is that too much to hope for?

Phoenix said...

Hi Whirl and McK and BT and FHH! It's already feeling cozy here with so many old friends.

FHH: I'm now following you and adding you to my "people i know" list ;o)

Phoenix said...

Oh, while I'm not an LOLcat addict, I HAVE laughed my over there several times!

fairyhedgehog said...

I think that counts!